Martin Read – Sports Reporter
This weekend, millions across the UK and the Commonwealth will fall silent to commemorate the brave men and women who lost their lives in conflict.
One hundred and one years ago, World War One, ‘The Great War’, ended, during which an estimated sixteen million combatants and civilians perished. There was unlikely to have been a city, town or village in England that didn’t feel the effects of the battles and the Horsham district played its full part, with sons, brothers, husbands, uncles and fathers departing for foreign parts, never to return. By way of a tribute, last week, today and in next weeks’ edition, we look at the stories of three valiant men who served both Horsham Football Club and their country with distinction, sadly making the ultimate sacrifice in World War One.
This week we remember James (Jimmy) Sturt, born to a plasterer, Edward, and his wife Emily on 30th September 1880, at a time when Horsham Football Club had yet to be re-established. The large Sturt family – Jimmy was one of nine siblings – were born and bred in Horsham and his early home was in the Bishopric. Jimmy, or ‘Nobby’ as he was also known, was educated at St John’s Roman Catholic School until the age of nine and would go on to follow his father in his later occupation as a bricklayer. A keen footballer, he joined Horsham FC towards the end of the nineteenth century and would go on to make more than seventy appearances for the club as goalkeeper. Despite excelling between the sticks (he notably saved two penalties in a 1-0 victory against Littlehampton in 1901 as well as scoring one himself against Worthing Rovers), Jimmy also revelled in being given the occasional chance to impress in an outfield position and it was said that there were loud cheers from the Horsham supporters when he scored with a diving header in a match at Steyning! When the call to arms came, Jimmy was among the first in the town to enlist, initially joining the 7th (Service) Battalion East Surrey Regiment, and was sent to France in June 1915 almost seven months to the day after his brother Samuel had been killed in action. By early October, Jimmy was entrenched in the Loos area of Pas-de-Calais where he was killed by German fire on October 4th, aged thirty-five. His military career, like countless thousands of other young men, had been tragically brief. In a letter written by a serving comrade-in-arms to Jimmy’s mother, it was clear his personality had had an effect on those who knew him. “I can truthfully say that he was loved by everybody he came into contact with. He was trusted and respected by every man in his platoon. Our only consolation was that he was killed instantaneously. You know what a band of brothers we all were. Jim was the best loved of us all. God knows how many of the rest of us will come back but those of us that do will never forget dear old Jim. Please accept the deepest sympathy of us all.”
(With acknowledgment to Gary Cooper for his excellent book “Horsham’s Heroes of the Great War, 1914-1919” and to Horsham Football Club)